'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em'

IN an area awash with teenage girls with the apparent sole ambition to own a buggy with full live contents before their 16th birthday, a new qualification should at least put us at the top of the league tables for something for once.

IN an area awash with teenage girls with the apparent sole ambition to own a buggy with full live contents before their 16th birthday, a new qualification should at least put us at the top of the league tables for something for once.

Not that qualifications have interested these girls before but, if you can't beat'em, join'em is obviously the Government's way of getting down with girls today.

It might sound like a joke but it's deadly serious. Parents, lock up your daughters. A qualification in being a young parent - equivalent to a GCSE no less - is being launched for girls 'considering becoming pregnant, or are so already.'

Considering getting pregnant?

The syllabus in this new O level in Pregnancy and Birth Studies includes caring for newborns, breastfeeding, dealing with toddler tantrums and learning to live on a budget.

The subject of teenage mothers is an increasingly depressing one.

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The really depressing bit is what motherhood does to young girls. They have no idea what they're letting themselves in for.

Motherhood steals their lives. Snatches away valuable years that should be a wonderful time. Ages them prematurely and saddles them with responsibility only a special few could cope with at that age.

Why can't they see that? Why can't a 15-year-old craving a baby to love realise that giving birth means she will wave goodbye to life as she knows it - or will ever know it?

I was glued to the TV last week watching The Hospital, a documentary following empty-eyed pudgy-faced teenage mothers in Birmingham - incidentally failed by the education system time and time again - which viewed teenage motherhood as something that just happened. A bit like getting a cold or a verruca. A hazard of teendom.

No, they didn't use contraception - surprised they were even asked. Millions has been spent on sex education - this generation knows more about sex than any other - but the important bit, how not to get pregnant, is getting lost in the detail.

The girls on the documentary knew everything there was to know about their condition - were experts in childbirth. Such attitude and confidence they had to argue their, largely ignorant, corner with the most patient laid back consultant obstetrician. If they had applied the same passion to their studies they would have been A grade students looking to a career rather than a nappy bucket.

A teenager giving birth costs the taxpayer �10,000 just to pop the baby out and another �55,000 until the child is five.

What girls don't realise is that childbirth endangers young bodies. The consultant said: 'Developing teenage bodies are simply not mature enough to deal with pregnancy; they face a much greater risk of complications for mother and baby than a 25-year-old woman.'

Asked after their births if it had been worth it, the girls said the wish they'd waited. These girls should be put in front of every class of 13 and 14-year-olds, looking tired, hard up and fed up. But the mothers-in-waiting will always think they know better.

If the Government via Edexcel wants to bring parenthood into the education system with a qualification, why doesn't the Ministry -

after all it is called the Department for Children, Schools and Families - bring it all together and bring contraception into school clinics for 16-year-olds? Even a qualification in contraception?

As distasteful as it is, leaving it to the girls isn't working. Contraceptive implants and injections could be fitted and given in schools. They last months without girls having to take any action.

It would be a rescue package for so many girls on the brink of ruining their life and a new life.

As parents, we might loathe the idea of our daughters having sex at 16 but wouldn't we rather she was responsible about contraception, and could access that help where she felt comfortable, with her peers. than risk ruining her life with a pregnancy?

Schools are proud of becoming multi-purpose community services today, adding a clinic to save these girls' lives and futures is something that has been vitally over-looked.

THE body of an elderly woman lay undiscovered for more than a year in her home and people are surprised.

It should never happen in this day and age, they say. But it's exactly this day and age and the break down of any community and family and reluctance to 'get involved' that post and unread newspapers are allowed to pile up behind a door and nobody notices. It would have been unthinkable 50 or 80 years ago.

People assume those who die alone and undiscovered were lonely, poor souls who suffered from the neglect of others.

But to be reclusive, as this woman was said to be, doesn't mean lonely. Some people are happy in their own company, are uninterested in the presence of other people and are quite fulfilled to be alone.

It's just the fact that no one noticed that is so sad.

MOST of us asked to donate our brains for research would make a joke about it not being much use.

Scientists are welcome to mine and good luck if they can fathom it.

A new campaign is asking people to add brains to their donor cards to help research into Parkinson's disease and some high profile donors have stepped forward, Jane Asher, John Stapleton and Jeremy Paxman.

Of course, Paxman, who'd have us all believe his brain was the size of a planet and a pulsating wonder of the world, is making much out of the donation of his much-prized organ.

How marvellous if researchers discovered it was full of posture, pretence and fluff as many of us suspect.

OF 29 countries assessed for the happiness of children, Britain came a shocking 24th.

The quality of lifestyle for our children trailed behind all the Scandinavian countries, Poland, Portugal Hungary and Greece.

Only children in Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Malta have unhappier children - which tells us exactly what we need to know about where children come today in our increasingly selfish national, family and community priorities.

It just shows where indulgence with games consoles, TVs in their bedrooms, electronic babysitters and parents putting their happiness first has got us.

OVER-the-counter diet pills hailed as helping women drop a dress size quickly went on sale this week.

The pills - at �1.50 a pop - promise all sorts of miracles to shrink body size and I'm sure they do.

But, as anyone who has lost weight will testify, it's not the weight loss that's the biggest challenge - it's keeping it off.

Losing weight is the easy bit. Keeping it off has nothing to do with quick fixes of pills - there is only one way to stay slim; healthy eating and exercise. A total lifestyle change.

But there are always mugs out there, the marketing men's dream, who fall for any old guff.

A MAP of Great Britain has been drawn up highlighting personality clusters and how certain types of people gravitate to certain areas.

Norfolk and Suffolk were conspicuous by their absence on the map.

Researchers showed how people in the northeast are the least extrovert and open, Scots are more agreeable than Londoners but less open to new experiences. East Midlanders were the most friendly and conscientious. Even Devon and Cornwall get a look in as more introverted but more agreeable than Londoners- but nothing about Norfolk and Suffolk folk, nothing between the East Midlands and London, just a great empty bulge ignored.

But I'm quite proud that we can't be lumped together as a 'type' and are obviously too complicated and complex to be worked out.

We are counties of individuals, unfathomable by scientists, and that makes us so interesting and unique. We should be proud to be left out.

EVERY evening my world stops for Hell's Kitchen.

I must not be interrupted, disturbed or miss a minute. Not that I give a jot about the contestants - although I'm staggered to find anyone could be more irritating than Anthea Turner; step forward her grating pompous husband. Granthea, the most irksome couple ever invented.

No, what send me into a blissful trance is the star, Marco Pierre White, a man oozing magnetism and charisma with every breath.

My daffy devotion is such that my older son is threatening to disown me for my attention to, in his words, 'A shouty craggy old man with frizzy hair wearing a headscarf.'

Gordon Ramsey-Shamsey is a mere pygmy compared to this true King of the Kitchen.

OK, she was good but not that good.

Now we've seen enough. Susan Boylemania has taken on a life of its own and gone into overkill.

Calm down. She can sing quite well. She hasn't discovered a cure for cancer or the secret of world peace.